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Living by Faith

• Efrem Smith

Efrem Smith preached this morning from Hebrews 11 about living by faith. The Christmas season can leave many people feeling shaken and weak. Many people wonder, “What can I trust in?” Efrem preached that faith in Christ is what people need, especially during this season. In particular, he preached about ten characteristics of living by faith that we learn from this chapter.

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Efrem Smith preached this morning from Hebrews 11 about living by faith. The Christmas season can leave many people feeling shaken and weak. Many people wonder, “What can I trust in?” Efrem preached that faith in Christ is what people need, especially during this season. In particular, he preached about ten characteristics of living by faith that we learn from this chapter.

First, Efrem preached that living by faith is difficult. In verse one, the writer of Hebrews states that faith “is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Efrem stated that many people have faith (or lack faith) because of the things that they see or experience. For example, a person who lacks faith might say, “I don’t believe in God because of how I saw a pastor unjustly treat my friend.” In another situation, a person might respond with, “I just don’t see that happening.” Then they must lack faith. Instead of basing our conclusions on what we see, this passage instructs that faith is being sure of what we do not see. This is hard in today’s culture.

Second, faith is not science. In verse three we read that our understanding of how God created the universe from what is not visible comes through faith. Efrem stressed that faith is not a formula; it is something that does not always make sense from the world’s perspective. It is something that cannot be proven (in a strict mathematical sense) because it is qualitatively different from reason.

Third, living by faith is costly. Efrem showed us in verse four that Abel’s humble offering to God caused his brother Cain to murder him. Efrem warned us that faith is dangerous; you might be hated for believing in Christ. In the United States, Christianity is often too comfortable, when in fact it should be revolutionary. In many countries around the world, Christians are risking their lives to be faithful followers of Jesus. This is the paradoxical paradigm of Christianity that in death there is life.

Fourth, an intimate relationship with God means living by faith. In verse six we see that it is impossible to please God without faith.

Fifth, Efrem preached that living by faith should cause us to build something that does not make earthly sense. Efrem pointed out that in verse seven, we see that God commanded Noah to build an ark in response to warnings Noah had not seen. Efrem pushed us to see ourselves as spiritual architects. What are we building in our relationships and families that to the world might not make sense, but that our spirit knows we must build?

Sixth, living by faith means obeying God when he says, “Go.” In verse eight, we are reminded of Abraham’s story of being called to go to the land of inheritance although he did not know where that was located. Efrem encouraged us to be ready to be stretched and pushed out of our comfort zone. We should not become attached to our earthly status, such as where we live and what we do. We must be ready to obey God when he calls us to go.

Seventh, Efrem preached that living by faith is for everyone, even for those who think they are old. In verse twenty-two, we see that Joseph even in his old age was still telling others the story of God’s faithfulness in leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Efrem challenged the older members of the audience with the question, “To whom are you passing Godly visions?” He stated that the church needs to see the older generation as prophetic elders.

Eighth, we raise our children by living by faith. In verse twenty-three, we are reminded that Moses’ parents hid him for three months because they knew he was a special child. In today’s culture, where young girls and boys hear lies about styles that will make them appealing, parents need to ask themselves, “What are we speaking into our children’s lives?” Are we speaking words of encouragement that place their self-worth solidly in Jesus Christ? Do we love them with agape love?

Ninth, Efrem preached that living by faith means confronting privilege. In verse twenty-four, we learn that Moses refused the position of honor that society placed upon him. Though some progress is being made toward the United States becoming a country where women and people of color are treated equally, the sad truth is that unmerited privilege is still pervasive for men and people of European ancestry. European-Americans and men must consider how they can contribute to building a more just and equitable society as faithful followers of Christ rather than propagating an unjust system.

Tenth, living by faith means that there is hope for everyone. In verse thirty-one, we are reminded of Rahab who hid the Israelite spies. As a prostitute she was seen as the scum of the earth, yet later in Scripture (in the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew), we learn that she is in the lineage of Jesus Christ. When we live by faith, Jesus transforms our identity. Our past does not matter; in Christ we are new Creations!

Efrem closed by saying that to understand the meaning of the Christmas season we must understand faith. We cannot prove faith, but our lives can testify to the radical change that Jesus brings.

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Focus Scripture:

  • Hebrews 11

    1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

    3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

    4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

    5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

    7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

    8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

    13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

    17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

    20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

    21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

    22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

    23 By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict.

    24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

    29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

    30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

    31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
    32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

    39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

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